Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

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Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Narrator: R. C. Bray
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780804139021
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Audio Production: Podium Publishing
Author Website: andyweirauthor.com
Twitter: @CrownPublishing, @atrandom, @RCBray12
Available: February 11, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Part of the rash of recent scifi books that all had orange-tinged covers that all caught my eye at the same time (Conquest by John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard, Influx by Daniel Suarez, The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen), Andy Weir's The Martian won out as the first for me to try out. I'm not a particularly well-read scifi reader, as most of my reading tends to sway more towards fantasy and urban fantasy, but all of these books look really good, and I thought maybe it was time to broaden my reading horizons and dip my toes in the scifi pool. And you know what, I'm not at all sad that I did.

Andy Weir's debut doesn't take much time to throw you into the middle of the story. Six days into a planned 2 month Mars mission, the Ares 3 mission is cut short by a dust storm that threatens to strand the entire crew on Mars. In the confusion of the storm, Mark Watney is left for dead at the mission site. However, Watney isn't dead and he quickly needs to adapt to his situation in order to try and survive on the surface of Mars with the limited supplies he has available to him until the next Ares mission makes it way to Mars (a very long 4 years off yet). What follows is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat story of survival and ingenuity that left me genuinely concerned for the well being of Watney, and I always think that's the sign of a really good book, when you're concerned for the life of a fictional character in a book.




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However, I needed a significantly raised suspension of disbelief. It wasn't just the fact that Watney was left on the surface of Mars, but it was his constant ability to figure his way out of things. It's fairly clear that Weir put a huge amount of research into this book, and I'm fairly sure the science behind the fiction is solid. It's just, there were so many numbers that were thrown around as Watney was able to guesstimate fairly accurately anything from the amount of oxygen he'd need to have to survive, to how to burn rocket fuel to make oxygen, to distances he'd need to travel on the surface and how much solar energy he'd need to make the necessary travel time. For somebody whose main role on the mission was as the botanist, as well as having some engineering experience, Watney was a freaking genius. After a while, it just seemed a little too impossible for him to know exactly what he needed to do in each circumstance that was thrown at him to survive the entire experience.

Another thing that bugged me a little was the dialogue. Weir had a tendency to use what I look at as "in the now" dialogue, things that I don't see as working their way into the vernacular in the long run. Maybe I'm wrong, but it was like Weir was trying too hard to show he had his finger on the pulse of current internet speak to think about the fact that maybe these turns of phrase won't hold until this undisclosed future that this book takes place in (and maybe there is a specific year, but I don't have the book in front of me so can't check right now).

And lastly, one last thing that bugged me, but this is a HUGE spoiler point for the end of the story, so if you don't want to know how it ends, turn back now!



OK, last chance, I'm revealing a big part of the end of book, so turn around now.



You've been warned. Of course, Watney survives. They figure out a way to rescue him, and it all seems a little too far-fetched how it works out. I won't give that part away, but needless to say I didn't believe for a minute Watney would have been able to survive the rescue attempt. BUT, I was riveted to the story right up to the end, and that still impresses me with this book, that Weir was able to keep me this involved on whether Watney was going to make it or not, regardless by how unbelievable I found the way they pulled it off. And the ending. THE ENDING. Those last couple of sentences were just a little too dipped in kumbaya for my liking. I mean, yes the story ended on a hopeful note, but to drive it home the way it was in those last couple of sentences just made me roll my eyes. Hard.



END ALL SPOILERS!!



All the same, I absolutely enjoyed this book. I listened to it as an audio, and while I wasn't sold on R. C. Bray's performance at first, eventually he became the voice of Mark Watney for me. I now know if I ever sit down to read the book (which I may do at some point in the future), it's going to be Bray's voice I hear in my head, speaking for Watney. If you're looking for a well-researched, suspenseful scifi adventure, you really can't go wrong with The Martian.




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